Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Shepherd

Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle (Music Video)

julien baker

Every few months or so, a music video comes along and manages to steal breath, freeze blood, and make time stand still. In those moments, careers on both sides of the lens can get pushed forward with a momentum that borderlines shocking and– importantly– keeps the medium pushing forward instead of succumbing to a rote stagnancy. Julien Baker’s “Sprained Ankle” is one of those videos.

Even on its own, the title track of Baker’s astounding Sprained Ankle is gripping. A haunted, downcast meditation on self-worth and perseverance, “Sprained Ankle” could have accompanied a strong photograph and it would have made a mark. Director Sabyn Mayfield and cinematographer David Newbert, thankfully, had a different vision in mind. While “Sprained Ankle” does start on a near-frozen one shot of a dejected Baker staring at the floor, it slowly unfurls into something that feels transcendent.

As the song’s guitar harmonics ring out, the camera pulls back to reveal an isolated Baker in the damaged expanse of a demolished classroom. As Baker makes her way through an emotionally crippling set of lyrics, the camera slowly surveys the surroundings without ever abandoning Baker is the focal point; she’s at the heart of the damage. As the lyrics draw to a close, the camera approaches Baker before finally pushing past her shoulder as the song descends into a wordless, layered chorus.

Finally, in that wordless section, the camera peers upward, focusing on the ceiling insulation in between the structural gaps. As the camera explores that aspect of the gradual destruction, there’s a palpable sense of sadness that accompanies the moment, driving home the thematic point of inevitable decay with an astonishing amount of grace. Presented as a tracking shot, “Sprained Ankle” concludes by sweeping from the roof back down to tarnished earth, pulling back to reveal Baker’s vanished entirely to inject the clip with a feeling of an almost sorrowful abandonment.

Ultimately, “Sprained Ankle” comes across as deeply human. It’s a tacit statement about the cyclical nature of loss and an unforgettable examination of self-awareness. It’s an unforgettable moment from an artist who deserves a lot more discussion going forward. Don’t let this one fade into the recesses of the forgotten anytime soon.

Watch “Sprained Ankle” below and pre-order the record from 6131 here. Below the embed, explore an extensive collection of some of the past few weeks’ best videos.

Farao – Warriors
R. Ring – Loud Underneath
Violent Mae – In the Sun
The Spirit of the Beehive – You Are Arrived (But You’ve Been Cheated)
Hey Lover – I’ve Got A Car
Skaters – Mental Case
Big Eyes – Local Celebrity
The Bandicoots – Overnight Innovator
Acid Fast – Momma Grey
Fog Lake – Shanty Town
Split Feet – Selective Mommery
A Place To Bury Strangers – Supermaster
Wand – Sleepy Dog
Mooner – Alison
Novella – Sentences
Billie Marten – Bird
Conner Youngblood – The Badlands
EL VY – Need A Friend
John Andrews and the Yawns – Peace of Mind
Moon King – Roswell
Rain – Slur
Joanna Newsom – Divers
The Zephyr Bones – Weird Summer
Eliot Sumner – I Followed You Home
Wells – Shepherd
Idle Bloom – Fare Fumo

Watch This: Vol. 39

Now that Watch This is actually up to speed and back to its regular Sunday rotation, the five videos to earn spots will likely be a little more varied than usual. That’s certainly the case for the 39th installment, which features another set of videos from Pitchfork, two full sets from KEXP, and a handful of stunning performances. From hazy folk-leaning psychedelia to frantic, unhinged post-punk, there’s a little something for everyone. So, grab a cup of coffee, let it cool to optimum drinking temperature, take a sip, cue up the speakers, and Watch This.

1. Speedy Ortiz (Pitchfork)

There were a lot of great sets at NXNE and Pitchfork, several of which came from Speedy Ortiz. The band’s live show has been growing increasingly sharp and Pitchfork had their film crew on hand to capture incendiary performances of “Oxygal”, “Tiger Tank”, and “Everything’s Bigger”.  All three of the videos contained in this playlist sound as good as they look, which is more than a little impressive. Once again, the clips are stunning and the takeaway is simple: don’t pass up any opportunity to see this band live.

2. Idiot Genes (Allston Pudding)

Allston Pudding continues an impressive video streak with this take of Idiot Genes blazing through “Randy” and “Drunk Consistently” at their practice space. Playing to nobody but a film crew can occasionally affect a band’s energy but it’s a non-issue for the post-punk rippers. Both performances are as weird and engaging as the band themselves, making for necessary viewing.

3. Woods (KEXP)

Very few bands have a discography as consistent as Woods’, especially taking into account how far along into their career they are. Here, the band stops by KEXP for a full set highlighting their most recent effort, the quietly remarkable With Light and With Love. All of the songs here drift by in a dreamlike state, tinged with bits of Americana, folk, psych, and subtle hints of post-punk. It’s as fascinating as it is entrancing and definitely not worth missing.

4. Happy Fangs (BreakThruRadio)

“Excuse me, do you have a minute to talk about rock n’ roll?” was the strangest introduction anyone had to offer at NXNE and it came courtesy of Happy Fangs’ singer, who was armed with a business card and no shortage of determination. That same confidence ties over to her performance as the San Francisco-based trio’s relatively fearless vocalist, which is a fact that’s clearly evidenced in this session for BreakThruRadio that features a fiery performance (from all members) of the attention-demanding “Hiya Kaw Kaw”.  

5. Parquet Courts (KEXP)

Sunbathing Animal is in a prime position to appear on a slew of year-end lists and Parquet Courts are likely aware of that fact. They’re certainly playing with the verve of a band that’s on an ascending trajectory of interest and acclaim. Recently, the band stopped by KEXP and delivered a blistering five song set that only re-affirmed their status as one of the more exciting bands around. All wiry post-punk, unease, and nerve, Parquet Courts seem to have no intention of stopping and are content to just keep humming along, never looking back to see who (or what) they’ve left in the dust.